Lanolin: An ecological and sustainable resource

Wool grease is a natural secretion produced by the sebaceous glands present in the skin of sheep. These glands continually release the grease, which coats the wool fibers with a protective and waxy layer. This natural process provides both the sheep’s skin and fleece with an inherent defense against prolonged exposure to environmental elements. Over countless years, evolution has meticulously refined this intricate blend of thousands of lipid compounds, exemplifying a remarkable form of natural ‘bio-engineering’.

Obtained from the washing liquids used in large-scale sheep wool processing, wool grease serves as the foundational material for subsequent refinement to produce lanolin and a diverse range of lanolin derivatives. Some of these derivatives include:

  • Lanolin alcohol
  • Lanolin oil
  • Lanolin ethoxylated
  • Various other inorganic materials

These substances exhibit remarkable emulsifying and emollient properties, making them highly valued as moisturising ingredients in cosmetic and medical products. Additionally, they find extensive application in various technical fields.

Lanolin, essentially a by-product of shearing, stands as the ultimate renewable resource. It is obtained without causing harm to the animals, making it a genuinely ‘green’ material. The majority of the world’s wool production originates from New Zealand and Australia, countries with vast and expansive grazing fields that are ideal for sheep farming.

Through seasonal shearings, sheep are relieved of their warm and heavy wool in a cruelty-free process that ensures their well-being. Referring to lanolin as simply an ‘animal derived’ product is misleading, as it fails to acknowledge the environmentally friendly advantages of this remarkable natural resource.

Considering that lanolin is obtained through the wool industry without causing harm or fatalities to the animals, it is more accurately described as an ‘animal harvested’ natural product. In fact, Greenpeace includes lanolin in its evaluation of cosmetic ingredients as a ‘green’ material.

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Chris Kommerowski

Chris Kommerowski
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